Facebook and facing forward

We have had our first ice storm of the winter here in Southwest Virginia. In an entirely unrelated development, I injured my right hand last month so I’m playing less music lately, but down at the Floyd Country Store the dance and music jam session goes on every Sunday, and I do still get out to take hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway or in Radford City parks. (The picture is one I shot at the Smart View Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway a few months ago. Must look a lot chillier this weekend!)

Those are all things that several hundred people who follow me on Facebook know, including friends in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, England and Ireland, as well as former students and classmates from New England to California.

Most of them do not follow this blog, which I have been writing intermittently for many years. But on Facebook I write shorter, less formally, and include many more pictures… like the ones here.

I have to remind myself to use my own blog out here on what fans called the “open web,” not within the password wall of Facebook, where you give away a lot of privacy to see what everyone else (including spies, politicians, marketers, deluded innocents and outright liars) has to say — all in one convenient package.

Another friend has just posted a note on Facebook saying that he doesn’t expect to be around that neighborhood much longer… Every set of headlines about malfeasance, misfeasance, misdirection and hubris by the young cyber media moguls has brought leaving notices.

My problem with leaving Facebook, as some sort of protest against Emperor Zuckerberg and his inability to recognize the Star Trek prime directive when giving great communication power to non-geeks, is that Facebook made itself just reliable enough and easy enough to use that significant online communities have abandoned other platforms and moved… from places like email lists, Usenet, Fidonet, Yahoo groups, Google Groups and Orkut… all of which I have enthusiastically used at one time or another.

The Old Time Radio Researchers Group I belong to is one example. Its OTRR.org, OTRRlibrary.org and several related sites still exist, but the group discussion is now on Facebook and has never been as easy to join.

Meanwhile, new local neighborhood and interest groups have grown up here that never existed before, such as the “Floyd 411” group where residents of that County share information about road conditions, storms, flooding, lost animals and other things — like a twenty-first-century AM radio neighborly kitchen-chat call-in show.

In the small city where I live, there was much more discussion of local politics and issues during the past year’s city, state and national elections then I have ever seen before. It was like having a robust local newspaper with a four-page letter column daily. Both the new mayor and the registrar of voters are on my Facebook friends list… and both use Facebook to make announcements that are much easier to access than those on the city’s frequently out-of-date web page.

Similarly, some very non-technological and non-political organizations use Facebook to get the word out about events like never before. The interlinked or overlapping membership groups for old-time String Band fiddle and banjo and guitar and mandolin music in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina links to groups interested in the same music in England and on the West Coast and in Australia and everywhere in between.

Yes, there are still independent websites for local music venues and organizations like Floydcountrystore.com and The Crooked Road, or independent bulletin boards for banjo players and mandolin players and guitar players, but the interconnection on Facebook is really amazing.

I am going to start spending more time on a couple of those independent groups, just to see whether there is any growth there and decline at Facebook. I will continue to encourage improvements in the City website, because I’m uncomfortable with its doing doing so much City business on Facebook. And I will try to remember to post my own writing out here in the public web more often instead of letting it sit in easy to use but ethically troubled Facebook.

But I still feel like a media research anthropological Observer, doing my thing while trying to figure out what’s going on out there. Am I part of the solution, or part of the problem? I don’t know.

(Thanks, as always to Dave Winer of Scripting News, whose sadly defunct Manila and Radio Userland systems blended blogging, shareable RSS feeds and discussion forums rather nicely in 1999… And whose reminders to stay out on the open web I highly appreciate.)

Posted in 2018, Appalachia, communication, Digital Culture, Facebook, Floyd, Internet, Online-Only, Social media

My other damn book(s)… and, belatedly, Beth

In keeping with Dave Winer’s (scripting.com) occasional reminders to write things outside of Facebook, where non-facebookers can read them, and taking inspiration from Stephen T Wishnevsky (wishnevsky.com), I may be writing another book.

Its title and contents are evolving, but this page may be the start of the introduction.

Wishnevsky’s volumes, “How the Hippies Ruin’t Hillbilly Music” and “Write Your Own Damn Book” (both available on Kindle or in paperback) have been a major inspiration. I have recommended “How the Hippies…” so often on Facebook and in messages to friends that my smartphone now recognizes “Ruin’t” as a correct spelling.

The other inspiration, sad and wonderful, was picking a handful of earth last month from the bucket at my friend Beth Wellington’s graveside to sprinkle down onto her coffin. She was Jewish, but the bucket was utilitarian… an accidental pun I like to think would make her laugh… The bucket was orange plastic with bold letters that said “Let’s Do This,” like a message from Beth instead of Home Depot. Or was it white with orange letters? Have I forgotten already? Did it have an exclamation point at the end? I am getting old.

Beth had survived two broken legs and a broken shoulder, run down in the crosswalk in December 2014 while bringing home groceries, with surgery and three months of hospitalization. Home and using a walker, she kept doing everything… Cooking, helping organizations, going to concerts and contradances, even if she couldn’t dance the way she used to, and writing… She used an all-terrain walker to get across downtown Blacksburg to the University Library to use its computers.

After a newspaper she worked for folded, around the time I moved to the area 10 years ago, she wrote in a variety of places … her blog (http://bethwellington.blogspot.com) and for the Guardian and elsewhere, as listed on her Linked-In page, perhaps her most detailed professional autobiography in outline form. I am sorry that she did not get to write her book. I wonder if she had one in progress. We may never know, because she left us without warning or hospitalization, at home, independently, from a blood clot or a stroke or something. She had suffered enough with hospitals, nursing homes and rehab after that accident.

Anyhow, this train of thought began with something that I wrote in a Facebook discussion today, one that also sent me off to rewrite part of the Wikipedia definition of “Bluegrass,” which had left Bill Monroe out of the first paragraph. The bluegrass discussion brought a comment from Wishnevsky on Facebook, so I digressed into recommending his books…

… I really meant the “inspiring” part.. Even before I finished it, reading “Write Your Own Damn Book” got me started on mine, tentatively titled “How I wrote four damn books, and why you haven’t read them” … but the title is a problem, since the fourth book isn’t finished (and may be better suited to remain in its current jheroes.com online-only multimedia status), so “How I wrote…” could be the fifth, and I have two or three others in mind, so I wonder whether I should save “How I wrote…” until they are all done…

That would be difficult since at least one of them, maybe two, should only be published posthumously. And maybe they should only be written that way.

The potentially controversial (sensationalized & exaggerated) two are tentatively titled, “How We Killed the Newspaper” and “I Got a Girl Scout in Trouble (Me Too).”

Time to stop wasting time on Facebook and get back to the typewriter… by which I mean a computer with a more typewriter-like interface than this Smartphone where I compose almost everything with voice to text these days.

The above has been updated and edited a bit from what I said on Facebook… Anyway, thanks to all of the above inspiration, in the coming weeks I plan to do more Thinking Out Loud here in this mostly-neglected-since-retirement blog.

Maybe the ultimate title should be “How I wrote seven damn books…”

That number seven has a nice “marketing” feel to it. Maybe I should settle for “How I wrote seven damn book titles“? Sounds like an autobiography about attention deficit disorder, doesn’t it? That would not be inappropriate.

The somewhat false advertising of this whole thing is that the first “three books” are of the academic thesis variety, and exist on my bookshelf and on the bookshelves of two or three College libraries, and that is about it.

Part of the story of book five or six or seven would be explaining why I never attempted to have any of the other three published more widely. For now, let’s just say I had reasons.

And, if I don’t get around to writing anything but more blog posts and Facebook notes, perhaps that will be enough to inspire someone else to keep writing after they see this little essay. And, having noticed that her own LinkedIn page is as close as Beth Wellington got to a public obituary, I will have to go update mine one of these days. My LinkedIn page, that is.



Posted in 2018, biography, jheroes, Journalism, Memorial, personal, Stepno, storytelling, WordPress, writing

Newsroom vultures

This is just a list of depressing news about “investors” dismantling independent newspapers… I’ve been following the stories via the Washington Post and other news organizations in my Facebook feed. Yes, there are bigger threats to a free and independent press than “new media.”

A Denver Post intern summed it, as quoted by Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan:

“I don’t understand the business plan,.. How does cutting off a leg help you keep running?”

I keep expecting someone to come up with a smoking-gun link between the political right wing and these vulture-capitalist “investors” dismantling the infrastructure of the free press in America.

BUT the “someone” would rightly be the independent investigative journalists who are losing their jobs. There are some bright spots on a national level, but fewer strong regional and local organizations.






And where to look for some hope…


Posted in Uncategorized

Analog Newsroom Memories

This started as technostalgia and finally got me to write something I’ve been trying to get around to for a week… On Facebook, Kathryn Lord, a former Hartford Courant colleague posted this photo of our former Mansfield (Storrs) bureau  teletype machine — just before it was replaced by a 1979 computer and modem. 

I believe the sign on the door is an old University of Connecticut press parking pass that I had stuck there under a Hartford Courant nameplate ripped from a front page a half-dozen years earlier.

While the sign and teletype remained in 1979, I had moved on from being UConn-area bureau chief to be higher education editor in Hartford in ’75, and by ’79 had started the grad school program that led to my leaving the paper in 1980. But I was already riding a wave of memories about that office and the people in it — one in particular — when this picture appeared in the Hartford Courant “alumni” Facebook group. So I asked Kathryn for permission to repost it outside the members-only space.

About a third of my Courant career traveled over that very teletype, from 1971 to ’75, stories I wrote or edited, never thinking that I was part of the last wave of analog communication technology. This was no digital computer and modem operation. The machine had no storage — it sent one character at a time, uppercase only, to a corresponding machine in Hartford. Push down a tall mechanical key and it would simultaneously type a letter on the yellow roll of paper in front of you and signal a similar machine to type an identical letter at the other end of a leased telephone line — where the Hartford Courant state desk crew was busily laying out pages, writing headlines marking up the printout so the composing room could set it in type in proper upper and lower case. 

As “bureau chief” I knew how to change the paper rolls and ribbons, and operated the machine well enough myself to get in a breaking story on deadline when I had to, and to teach the basics to a series of part-time teletype operators, most of whom typed faster than I did. They were the ones who sent off stories by our bureau’s five daily correspondents, me, and one or two staff reporters. I recently learned that at least one of the half-dozen teletype operators I hired stayed with newspaper journalism far longer than I did, and one went on to become a successful author of a book about women executives’ “glass ceiling.”

And last week I learned that the first full-time reporter I was able to hire to share that office has passed away, after a remarkable journalism career that never ended. Terese A. Karmel, known to everyone (sometimes confusingly) as T.C., started as a small town correspondent,  a mom with two kids at home, somehow finding time to cover school board and planning and zoning meetings, being paid a pittance per story, but in love with writing. She soon became a part-time reporter-editor, then full-time staff, and eventually took over my old job as bureau chief. 

But she kept going, building a career as a feature editor, sports writer, magazine writer and journalism teacher. She started writing about women at the University of Connecticut just as the women’s movement and Title IX arrived, empowering women’s sports. She paid attention when others didn’t. She shared an amazing amount of passion, ideas, humor and energy, both in print and in person. 

As her first editor, I mostly just got out of the way. That teletype machine — and print — ultimately saw many more stories with her byline than mine. I am proud to have known and worked with her, and very sad that she is gone.

Of course someone at the Courant has written the more complete obituary, one that doesn’t “bury the lede” the way this little memorial does.

Posted in community, Connecticut, Journalism, Newspapers, personal, Stepno, Technology, The Hartford Courant

Gone into the new ether

I found out yesterday that I have lost a friend, just an acquaintance really, but someone whose interests and mine overlapped in this new ethereal world of social media and online research.

   Jimbo should have become obsessed with at least the title of the old TV show “I Led Three Lives,” because the Web, online forums, blogs and podcasts certainly made it possible for him to lead many more than that. 

His biggest obsession in recent years was a decades old radio show called Vic & Sade, a brief quirky daily  serial that might be considered a Depression-era Midwestern Seinfeld if those weren’t complete contradictions in terms. His Vic & Sade blog was one of more than a dozen websites he created with the Blogger program, stretching it to its limits, but he also has had a career in podcasting on more general subjects. He recorded a 13-chapter online “audiobook” about Vic & Sade with a wonderfully modest introduction that mentioned how relatively new he was to the oldtime radio hobby, that he was in poor health, and that he had lost his wife in an auto accident some years ago. 

If you want to “meet” Jimbo, that’s where I would start. He gave that opus a “Vic & Sade” inspired title:
The Audiobook that Choked Billy Patterson.

Someone on Twitter posted a link yesterday to what they said was Jimbo’s obituary under his real name. It is a blank except for the name, date and town he lived in, with no funeral arrangements mentioned. Did his family there near the Georgia coast really have no bio to post, and no idea of his lives online? Was his use of the names “Jimbo” and “Jim/Jimbo/James Mason” based on a real need for privacy? Were there other names he used for Old Time Radio Researchers Group OTRRG uploads at archive.org? He mentioned once that folks confused him and OTRRG’s Jim Beshires because of the first name and initial.

I have decided to let him remain “Jimbo” to me and pay my respects with this note, and listening to some of his and his friends’ podcasts, a phase of his online publishing career that began around the time we lost touch. That included not only a Vic & Sade podcast, which I new about, but a collaborative online audio drama I just learned of today, Hometownville, which takes place in Alaska and has Jimbo as “Nanook.”

I “met” Jimbo on Twitter, where he posted as http://twitter.com/jimbo_otr (his last posts there were Nov.30) … At the time I was looking for help in my research into old radio show portrayals of journalists. I used to be one, and later was a journalism professor, but his research was purely a labor of love, with as far as I know no goal of making money, selling a commercial book, or getting some arcane credit toward tenure and promotion, which had been part of my own motivation for researching old radio shows.

He helped me with leads for a blog item about the radio characters Vic & Sade as newspaper *readers* as well as Vic’s flirtation with writing for newspapers. I wrote this: 


Our Twitter and email conversations led to his interviewing me about my OTR research. He published the results on one of his blogs in 2012.

Coincidentally, both of us had been exploring the research potential of Google’s scanned-newspaper project. After Jimbo interviewed me about my work, we tagged each other back and forth on Twitter for a couple of years. But since retiring, I’ve been devoting more time to music and less to radio research, more time to Facebook and less to Twitter. As a result, I pretty much completely lost touch with him. I’m terribly sad to hear that he has passed, and to hear the wheezing sound of his voice on a couple of podcasts I’ve listened to since getting the news. I had downloaded his Vic & Sade audio book, but had only listened to part if it, and had no idea how extensive his audio work had been. For almost a year he had hosted something called Overnightscape Central, as well as his Vic and Sadecast, both of which his friends plan to continue. Some of his collaborators there built a collective tribute broadcast that is almost four and a half hours long. He touched people! 

Well, all I can say is that I hope Jimbo had as much fun and fascination — and love — in all of the parts of his life that apparently few of us knew anything about. Rest in peace, Jimbo, and in this strange new kind of internet ethereal immortality.

[This blog post is an expanded version of a note I posted in response to one of the podcast tributes to Jimbo.]

Some links into Jimbo’s world:





A “Superhuman” effort at combining all the 15-minute episodes of the 1940s Superman radio serial into “complete story arc” mp3 files… cutting down the repetitious reloading and commercial interruptions for those whose “research” interests involve listening to the full stories. (There are other Archive collections and Web pages with individual episodes in date-sequence.) To give you an idea of Jimbo’s commitment to the Old Time Radio “hobby,” there are 80 stories here, ranging from one to six hours long!

Dec. 21 addition… I finally got to hear Jimbo’s podcasting friends pay their respects — with more than four and a half hours of memories, excerpts from his broadcast, and other tributes!

On Facebook, I pointed Dave Winer & Christopher Lydon, as pioneer podcasters, to Jimbo and friends’ world of interlinked podcasts at onsug.com

It’s not “like public radio,” “like talk radio,” or like anything I’ve been listening to elsewhere. Unfortunately, it was his death that made me finally give a listen to this aspect of his online career.

Addressing the Facebook note to tge?erudite Chris Lyndon also prompted me to observe that “Jimbo” was like a Joe Gould who didn’t need a Joseph Mitchell — and whose biggest secret was his real name. In fact, I wish The New Yorker would get someone as obsessive as Mitchell to tell the story behind Jimbo’s online publishing career! (The way Mitchell did about Gould, making him perhaps the worlds best known unpublished writer half a century ago.)

I had only listened to a few episodes of Jimbo’s Vic & Sade audiobook, and had no idea how far beyond that one podcast his podcasting career went, and now I am just a little fascinated by the non-OTR online community podcasting made him part of.

I’ve just spent the morning finally listening to his fellow-podcasters’ memorial program… almost four and a half hours of tributes and clips from his past programs! And that is only part one! Quite the memorial.

It reminded me that some early podcasts about old-time radio shows were what got me started listening to and writing about them (at jheroes.com)… something I discussed with Jimbo when he interviewed me for his blog almost 6 years ago. (I just tracked down that piece too… his questions got me composing a better explanation of what I was up to than I had written on my own blog at the time…
http://otrbuffet.blogspot.com/2012/02/interview-with-bob-stepno-about.html )

His death also prompted me to dust off this general purpose blog that I haven’t been using as much since retirement, and since getting over-involved with Facebook.

Posted in 2017, biography, Blogging, communication, Memorial, oldtime radio, personal, podcasting, socialnets

The fading roar of the presses

I have been letting this blog fade rather significantly since my retirement from teaching journalism, but a friend’s post on Facebook about the closing down of the Roanoke Times presses inspired me to write something kind of long for a Facebook post and relevant to the original theme of this blog, so here it is.

The Roanoke Times is now part of the Berkshire Hathaway media chain, and will be printed at another paper in that chain, part of the corporate consolidation of thinner and thinner newspapers with thinner and thinner roots in their local communities. So here is what I had to say about that on Facebook…

“Hot off the presses” can’t mean the same when the presses aren’t in the same city as the name on the front page of that newspaper… and the newspaper as an institution isn’t as great a representative of the community when it doesn’t employ the full range of production people, not just writers and editors and photographers and designers and ad takers, but typesetters and compositors and printers and press operators and forklift drivers (for those big rolls of paper!) and truck drivers and delivery folks, circulation supervisors, what we used to call  paperboys and newsstand operators… the whole crew that used to create a daily miracle in newsprint. See the pressman story that Roanoke Times veteran Beth Macy shares below (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155673584327835&id=586837834). 

No amount of corporate public relations staff can replace having dozens of employees who care about their jobs and represent the newspaper in the community.

Times are changing. “Papers” are digital. But it takes a mighty stretch for web comments, Twitter tweets and Facebook page discussions to make your local news organization as much a part of the community as it was when it employed so many people in the community in so many trades. 

I’m thinking of a short-lived Mickey Rooney radio series in which he played an Army vet newspaper-truck driver whose father had been a typesetter, and whose life goal was to be a reporter. For most of the 20th century, you had respect for the newspaper as a local institution, whether you agreed with his editorials or not, because you knew somebody who worked there or whose father or mother or brother or sister worked there. 

(Even if I mostly read its comic strips and a couple of humorous columns, I delivered something called the Daily Hampshire Gazette when I was in junior high school. It’s 630 miles from here and I still follow it on Facebook. It was “my paper” the way the record store that sponsored my bowling team was mine even before I had a stereo of my own.)

Packing up the presses and selling them for scrap or to some distant location where they still put ink on paper is in some ways just a sign of the times, but in other ways a sign of losing a “hot off the presses” community institution and local employer, taking over by a big out-of-town Corporation, cold and distant, not caring in much other than its bottom line.

Posted in Uncategorized

Three years into retirement; time flies online and off

Facebook just reminded me that three years ago today I announced my retirement from Radford University on Facebook…  Dave Winer (http://scripting.com) was the first to “like” the anniversary note, which reminded me that writing on Facebook doesn’t get to the “open web” he and I both support.
So here I am… with what is mostly a duplication of what I said on Facebook today, plus some editing and a bunch of hat-tipping open-Web-research links at the end.

One thing I didn’t anticipate about retirement was how much I’d be using Facebook — back then I didn’t even hit the “like” button on comments.  Now posting cellphone pix of sunsets and area walking trails is almost a new career.  Another surprise was how much music I’d manage to play… three to five jam sessions a week, adding ukuleles to my guitar-mandolin-and-banjo instrument collection, as well as a tiple,  an instrument I’d never heard of in 2013. And I revived my old blog at boblog.blogspot.com as a place to write about music topics. (As distinct from this blog,  where I write about pretty much anything, but not often, and jheroes.com,  where I write about my old-time-radio-and-newspaper research, but not often enough.)

I’ve also contributed a couple of small items to the Journal of Appalachian Studies, continued on the review board of the Journal of Magazine and New Media Research in a small way, finally found someone to take over aejmc.us/news after a dozen years, and took a bunch of Coursera online classes, especially enjoying Wesleyan University film courses, whose professors helped me think about my own continuing study of now-departed American radio dramas that — in their day — helped boost the image of newspaper journalists, which I write about at http://jheroes.com (complete with audio-players for hundreds of radio episodes).

I also didn’t anticipate how much a role the smartphone would play in my retirement.  Those Facebook posts and photos, this WordPress blog update, and tons of research with http://archive.org, http://imdb.org, http://worldcat.orghttp://otrrlibrary.org,  http://radioGOLDINdex.com , http://www.radfordpl.org — and more — have been done with my phone’s browsers and apps, from home, over apple pie at http://FloydCountryStore.com, from http://BlueRidgeparkway.org hiking trails, even from my tent at events like http://TheLEAF.org



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Posted in Uncategorized

Appalachia — a view from NPR

Anybody else catch the bits and pieces of “A view from Appalachia” on NPR Morning Edition today? I wasn’t up early enough for the 7:15 live Facebook chat, but will post a link to the replay.


Steve Inskeep co-anchored from a Knoxville restaurant, had interviews with the city’s mayor and a Berea College Appalachian Studies prof, plus a pre-recorded story segment from a Bristol (Va./Tenn.) pawn shop, and others with Tennessee’s governor, with a former Kentucky coal-miner who now makes Dixie Cups, with the promoter of the Bonnaroo music festival, with some folks trying to build new businesses in mountain communities like Damascus, Va., and with an unwed mother (also in Kentucky) who hopes joining the military will lead to a career in law enforcement, but not in her meth-afflicted hometown. Music by Knoxville’s Black Lillies, and R.B. Morris.

The program also was promoted in advance and during the morning from multiple Twitter feeds, including photos shot during Inskeep’s travels earlier in the week:





Placeholder Web pages were posted at 5 a.m., and by afternoon had streaming audio players. Eventually transcriptions were added.





All in all, it was an impressive commitment to making ambitious use of many available online media tools.

Shuffling together the geological “Appalachia” (including mountains as far as New York) with the cultural, historic and economic Southern Appalachian region in an overview probably didn’t help matters.

But I was most disappointed that West Virginia Public Radio wasn’t involved, rather than Knoxville, which was a bridge to Tennessee’s governor for an only loosely related interview story.

As a supplement,  I recommend the “Inside Appalachia” radio shows,  available as a podcast:



Posted in 2016, Appalachia, Government, News, NPR, radio, Tennessee, Virginia

Feeling my Net age

The Associated Press has announced that on June 1 its AP Stylebook will cease capitalizing Internet and Web.

The news on Facebook looked like this, with a good reminder that the internet and the web are not the same thing, capitalized or not.


Beyond that reminder, the style news has me feeling like a cyber curmudgeon, set in my ways after almost 40 years of using computer communication services. As a shortened form of the proper noun World Wide Web, “the Web” uppercase made sense to me when referring to the collection of computer services set in motion by Tim Berners-Lee in the early 1990s. 

AP and the public had gotten inconsistent about “Web,” website,  webmaster and other compound uses. Part of the problem is the sheer size of that capital W in most typefaces. A technical article risked poking the reader in the eye with all those tall barbs. So I understand the need to sacrifice the big W for typographical aesthetics and consistency.

I still like the somewhat geeky distinction between “an” internet — two or more connected networks — and “the” uppercase Internet, the ever-expanding  decentralized global network…  I think of it as a physical entity — all those wires, cables, wireless links, switches, routers and computers, as well as the rules (protocols) that make them work together.

The i/I distinction is admittedly confusing. The big Internet could use a name of its own. I would suggest FRED, and let someone else reverse engineer the acronym, but that friendly name already has other uses, some involving “the F-word.” Perhaps “the Net” could the replacement.

Or… another comparison just came to mind. Does “the ocean” suggest to you all of the oceans of the world? The individual oceans get their proper names, uppercase, while the network of all of them flowing into each other is referred to in lower case as the ocean or the oceans. But, no, let’s not start saying “the internets.” That sounds like a line from a stand-up comedian.

Meanwhile, I disagree with AP’s reference to the World Wide Web” and “email” as “subsets” of the network. They are software-powered services run on the network — programs and data in motion over all those cables and wireless links, following another layer of protocols.  “Subsets” of the Internet sounds more like some part of the physical wiring, rather than the electronic reality of bits and bytes flitting about wirelessly to take shape as pixels on our screens.

(In full curmudgeon mode, I admit I also preferred the word email with a hyphen, but that battle was lost several AP Stylebook editions ago. I thought the hyphen made the pronunciation consistent with other one-letter usages. Not that I’ve ever heard anyone mispronounce it “em-ail.”)

Note: After I posted a short note about this on Facebook, a friend (Dave Winer of http://scripting.com) asked me to put it on my blog so that he could point people to it more easily. This rather long draft was composed on a cell phone late at night, risking both eyestrain and auto-correct errors.
Alas, I’m afraid verbosity has struck, and I have no editing help — other than your comments on this blog post.

Posted in communication, Computers, Internet, Journalism, Technology

Saving the newspaper, 1932

  A former student of mine, now editor-in-chief of a small-town weekly newspaper, confessed on Facebook that she got lost in some bedtime reading last night and was up past 1:30. Coincidence: I was not only guilty of the same thing at the same time, but with every chapter of the book I was reading, I had thought about sending her a copy.

Actually, in this case “a copy” is just a web link or two. The book — about an even younger woman editor — is apparently out of copyright and available for free streaming or downloading in both Project Gutenberg e-book and LibriVox audio book formats.

In “Helen in the Editor’s Chair,”  a Nancy Drew style teen novel, two high school students have to run the town weekly when their dad the editor is taken ill and sent to Arizona because of “lung trouble.” It’s truly amazing what they accomplish without TV or the Internet! (I don’t think radio even gets mentioned.) The roles of both the country newspaper and the country doctor — the newspaper family’s next-door neighbor — will definitely have you wishing for simpler times.

From selling ads and setting type to covering stories big and small, and getting ideas for new features from helpful readers, the kids have a “we can do it!” energy that’s inspiring.  I couldn’t help imagining the two teenagers being played by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and kept expecting them to burst into song on deadline. The setting is Midwestern, and, yes, there is a tornado — but Helen keeps her feet on the ground. Besides, the small town with its train station, farms and lake is close enough to Oz for me. 

I was up late with the audiobook, but Project Gutenberg has text versions, if you find audiobook pacing is too slow. (The reader is o.k., but so measured that I wonder if his target audience is ESL students.)



Posted in community, fiction, Journalism, jpop, literature, Newspapers, popular culture